December 2005

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Hey Ho Sydney 2006

Wysteria


Driving over to Sydney on the 2nd of January and should arrive there somewhere between the 7th and the 25th. Eschewing the practicalities of space and speed, we’ll be travelling in Simon’s groundbreaking piece of early nineties curvature in car design, the Mazda 121. To console myself I’ll be thinking Apollo capsule or being buried alive. Actually I have happy memories of when the this car first came out and being taken during a party by the nice young lady owner on my insistence to get a burger at Bernies while in the thrall of hallucinogens. It seemed to just hover silently – maybe we really just sat in the car with the lights on for 30 minutes. Has the magic stayed? I’ll have 5 days to find out. Already there are tensions about camp food.

nausicar


Anyone got any hints for Sydney? I was thinking of Tetsuya but the peals of laughter as I tried to book a table at this short notice would break my heart. But I’m from Perth didn’t get me into the Espy in St Kilda but admittedly it was phrased more along the lines of “but I’m from fahhhcking Perth, cahhhn yah bahhhstard, maate”.

While travelling Wysteria, the lovely pony, will be in charge. No messing about. She has a magnetic hoof which can draw iron out of people’s bloodstream causing anemia and listlessness.

I might try to get pics up of the five course NYE dinner party for 11 but in the mean time here’s a box of fine young spatch cocks.

box of spatchcocks



Lamb Rack with potato salad, slow roasted tomatoes, onion jam, and jus


Fucking great, really great. Yes it was.

There’s not anything particularly original or new here but I liked how a lot of different things came together making it a very personal dinner party menu for two good friends from England. Tasty too.

dhufish in phyllo


This is the dhufish wrapped in phyllo pastry. Jo gets Gourmet Traveller and didn’t know what dhufish, which is a great shame, so I chose this for the entree. I like it with just butter but this recipe fancies it up without overwhelming the fresh sweet taste. The recipe is pretty much taken straight out of the Second Simple Cookbook by Athol Thomas. The book has been a great help in cooking Western Australian seafood.

Make a herb butter out of 125gm of butter with one tablespoon of green peppercorns and the juice of one lemon. Place the butter on each fillet and wrap each one with a sheet of phyllo pastry, sealing underneath with some melted butter. Put in a well buttered baking tray and cook for 15 minutes at 200C.

The sauce is a reduction of white wine with a tablespoon of tarragon and then whisked some cream in. I’d made a bisque earlier that day (like you do) and added a tablespoon to the sauce and then added a few small pieces of butter.

Lamb Rack with potato salad, slow roasted tomatoes, onion jam, and jus


I revisted this recipefor the lamb rack. I left out the mushrooms as being summer something cooler would be nice. To accompany it I made a warm pea and potato salad with a tarragon, parsley, and chive two yolk mayonnaise. Thinking of bernaise sauce, I briefly boiled the vinegar for the mayonnaise with a tablespoon of tarragon before adding it to the egg yolks. Once the mayonnaise was made I added a tablespoon of the parsley and the chives. The kipfler potatoes were cut into small cubish shapes, they do this at Jacksons with a higher order of precision but it’s a good idea. Several smaller pieces will have more surface ares than one larger area [I’m sure there’s some way of working out how much more but ermm help – no wait if it was four cubes it would be the existing area plus the addition of two sides of area for the horizontal and vertical cut so additional area=a x (n-2) where a=the area of one of the original sides and n=the number of new pieces] and this means more area for the mayonnaise to rest on. The size also balances nicely with the peas. Peas are in season at the moment so I shelled and cooked them until cooked without being soft and refreshed under cold water. [ Slight digression I made a nice pasta sauce for rigatoni the other night with freshly shelled peas, pancetta, EVOO, asparagus, garlic, and plum tomatoes] Alll Mixed together with a couple of chopped spring onions.

Instead of cooking the red onions with the lamb, I made a relish out of it. Cook the onion until golden and add 3tbs of raw sugar and 3 tbs of white wine vinegar and cook, stirring, until thick.

The cherry tomatoes were cooked with EVOO, salt, and rosemary in a 200C oven for 10 minutes and then cooked at 150c.

The sauce is a mix of beef stock, red wine, and a little cream whisked in for colour.

For cooking the rack, sear the sides in duck fat and then roast in an oven at 180C for 12 minutes on each side. This allowed it to be cooked evenly through but cut back to maybe 20 minutes for a rare finish. Allow to rest in foil for 10 minutes.

Watermelon Mojito Sorbet


A break from ice-cream due to non dairy dessert preferencing guests. Get about four cups of watermelon, puree it and take a cup and heat it with a third of a cup of sugar and a tablespoon of basil. Heat until the sugar had melted and strain. Add to the rest of the puree with the finely chopped rind and juice of two limes and a third of a cup of white rum (I’m not sure how much exactly – just what was left in the bottle). Popped in the ice-cream maker until nice and frosty. You can alternatively use the freeze stir and bash method. The alcohol is what gives it a bit of mushiness, maybe a little too, no just right.

Apparently in England, if you hit an animal with your car you can’t claim it, but the following car can.

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rabbit and pork terrine

Well that’s that done then. Just a quick food round-up.

The rabbit and pork terrine was for Christmas brunch and to put it briefly – the rabbit is quartered and simmered with a mirepoix for two and a half hours and shredded. It’s then replaced by some pork belly and a couple of pork chops which are also simmered for two hours. The stock is then reduce with some rosemary and the clarified using eggswhites, parsley, and leek before being strained through some muslin with the addition of a few teaspoons of gelatin. It does seem a long way about doing a stock but it’s really just adding flavours as you go along. The kidneys and liver are cooked in rabbit fat and brandy and then chopped up finely.

I reheated the meat in a pan with the pistachio nuts in a pan with a little of the and then packed in a wrap lined bread tin with boiled leek green on the bottom for decoration. Fill with the aspic and then placed a foil wrapped piece of cardboard on top with a beer bottle for a weight. Refrigerate overnight.

For a treat for the nieces I made some cherry ice-cream and placed in it a silicone snowman ice-cream tray. Topping up the mould with couveture chocolate gently heated with a little cream and sugar.

Finally the brioche had me up past midnight and was an interesting experiment. I think they’re supposed to be light and delicate but I just seemed to have this buttery sludge for dough which turned into a quite heavy kind of cake. More to be done on this baking thing.

We had the terrine with cornichons and italian bread and pumpernickel (forgot to bring the brioche) and the ice-creams went down well. Late lunch was over at Brand and Jo’s with the full Delia turkey with all the roast veg and trifle for dessert followed by Father Ted and Doctor Who. No reason you can’t have the full roast dinner in Oz, none whatsoever.

With the sun going down quickly, we made it to Leighton beach to watch the sun go down, with a bottle of beer and a cigar and that was that for Christmas. Hope you enjoyed yours.

rabbit and pork terrine A glass of very clear rabbit and pork consomme cherry snowmen


jo and me christmas lunch down

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Bastani Akbar-Mashti on Baklava


It is, sadly, not enough to just have ice-cream anymore. There has to be an extra carbohydrate bit so I thought I’d lump the Middle East together in one handy package and use a baklava as a base for this Persian variation on vanilla ice-cream.

I almost stuffed the ice-cream completely by just giving the ingredients a quick glance and not looking at the instructions. To clarify, the stages are
1. Heat milk with split vanilla pod
2. Whisk sugar with eggs
3. Pour hot milk slowly into sugar and eggs while stirring
4. Add cream when cooled.

and not pour all the ingredients except the eggs into a saucepan and start heating and then wonder that the eggs looked a little lonely in the bowl and have another look at the recipe. But, as Mark at work kindly pointed out when my line of tapenade had a slick of olive oil around it making it look like an overexcited black slug – ‘all can be fixed.’

There was nothing I could do about the getting the cream or the sugar out of the milk, so I just added a little sugar to the eggs and whisked, and then just poured the milk/cream slowly in as if nothing had happened. I then added two teaspoons of rosewater, as part of my quest to finish the bottle, which was to taste. It is strong so advance a little at a time. I also added two teaspoons of honey, which I regretted as it provides an overly harsh note of sweetness. Put in the fridge to cool, before adding it to the ice-cream maker. You can then chuck little neatly cut cubes of turkish delight in as it goes around and marvel as they get drawn into the icy vortex.

Place in three dariole moulds, smooth over the top and leave in the freezer until ready. If you had some kind of tube thing, that would be quite good too.

Baklava is easier than it looks and is no harder than making a lasange, a tricky dagwood, or a voltaic pile. Phyllo pastry can be a bit fiddly but if you work with small amounts, it shouldn’t give you too much trouble. I wanted it to match the ice-cream so I cut rounds out of a similar size to the dariole moulds three or four sheets at a time by using a cutter ring and giving it a good whack with a rolling pin. I used (buttered) ramekins for each individual one and you stack it like this. You’ll need to brush each round of pastry with butter as you stack them. A lovely assistant is a boon.

4 rounds of phyllo pastry
nut mix nut mix nut mix
3 rounds of phyllo pasty
nut mix nut mix nut mix
3 rounds of phyllo pastry
nut mix nut mix nut mix
5 rounds of phyllo pastry


Heat sugar the sugar syrup over a low heat until the sugar dissolves and the allow to simmer uncovered without stirring for five minutes to get it syrupy. Pour over the baklava and then bake for about 30 minutes in an 180C oven or until goldened. Allow to cool in the fridge – time does help the flavours.

Assembly:
Remove the baklava from the ramekin, heat the dariole’s in warm ater briefly and place carefully on topon the baklava, top with a little of the nut mixture, decorate with turkish delight and serve.

Well it was fantastic, really fantastic. Ice cream makers are the best. Admittedly I wanted it a little sharper than a slighty tilting truncated pine tree but not to be. I’m convinced Keiko has some kind of robotic lathe that she picked up from an outsourced Japanese precision engineering firm, it defies my competencies. Nevertheless project Become Quite Good at Dessert progresses well.

Bastani Akbar-Mashti:
250ml of full cream milk; 100gm sugar; 2 eggs; 400ml of thick cream; one vanilla pod; 2tsp of rosewater.
Baklava:
packet of phyllo pastry. Nut mix: 1 cup of chopped cashews and walnuts; 1/2 tsp each of ground cinnamon, allspice, and cloves; 100gm butter (plus extra for the pastry). Sugar Syrup: 1/2 cup of caster sugar; 1/3 cup of water; juice and finely grated rind of half a lemon.

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Christmas

Christmas in Shibuya

FX Holden sat on my knee and asked me to do a bit of Christmas round-up. I’m afraid it’s more socks than spacesuit as I’ve never made a big deal of it all (except for gift receiving). I’ve found the recent putting christ into christmas hoo-ha a bit puzzling and the harnessing of it to blaming the usual suspects for political purposes distasteful at best. Tis the season of malicious anecdotes. As much as I’m chuffed for people enjoying the religious significance of it, Christmas is about as Christian as the English language is English. And in case that isn’t clear I mean mainly nicked from elsewhere, in constant flux and local adaptation, and largely rescued from 20th century obscurity by finding a syncretic host in a successful economic entity. Sure there are people who see Shakespeare or an imaginary point in the 19th century as the line in the sand, but there are always prescriptivists. Just as they’ve done some wonderful things with English, I think the Japanese have done a wonderful thing with Christmas and it’s my favourite version. Essentially it celebrates the three things that have made the last five decades fun – sex, nifty shops, and cheaply available chicken. I’m personally not that keen on the effects of cheaply available chicken but I’d argue you couldn’t get a lot closer to the Mary and Joseph experience than trying to find a spare table in Harajuku or a vacant Love Hotel in Shibuya on Christmas Eve. As for the rest – eating well, seeing friends and family, feeling goodwill, and falling asleep in the afternoon – these are things we should always enjoy.

Anyway here’s a few things for now:

The Spiceblog Christmas Helper
Christmas Brunch
Breakfast for Xmas: Spinach and Eggs in Ramekins; Oven Roasted Mushrooms, Tomatoes, and Prosciutto; Pancakes with Corn.

And in place of the usual Christmas cracker gags you can always use the one about the dyslexic devil worshipper.

Szechuan Smoked Duck

smoked szechuan duck

Long time friend Sal was back over from London and having remebered what we had for dinner last time she was over, got another invite and to make a request. Meat but not beef or seafood and lamb somewhere else left me with three choice of rabbit, quail, or duck. Toni picked duck.

I chose this recipe because I’d seen something similar on that show on SBS about Australian food and a three stage cooking process seemed and interesting thing to try. I’ve found a recipe in what seems to be my sole source of Chinese recipes – Yan-Kit’s Classic Chinese Cookbook. It’s not very glam but it’s a nicely functional book that covers most areas and techniques and the recipes work. I find it ideal for me as someone who hasn’t mastered Chinese food enough to do too much messing around on basic principles. Actually there’s a bit of messing around with the recipe. The main consideration is time and you need to allow about two and a half hours for cooking.

I bought a 2.1kg duck which was only about $18 and deboned it to make it more managable for cooking and carving and just because I enjoy it. [instructions here]. Once you’ve deboned slice it down the middle into two pieces. The wings are a little unwiedly so I removed them and use them for the stock. Taking the ends of the drumsticks off with a cleaver is a good idea too. Also remove the tail and excessively fatty bits (no don’t be sad, we can use these later). Rub it with salt and leave for as close an amount of time as overnight as you can and then rinse in hot water and dry. It this had been a whole duck I was supposed to rub the cavity with saltpetre but I’ve no idea why.

smoking


Smoking

Get a wok, line the base with foil and place 4tbs of jasmine tea leaves; 1.5 cups of flour; and half a cup of brown sugar in the center. Place the duck on a steamer bottom or a rack, clear of the tea etc, and place a tight fitting cover over it. Get the heat up to a level where there’s a good amount of smoke happening and then smoke for 30 minutes, turning the duck once

steaming

Steaming

Mix together two cm pieces of ginger (bruised); 2 large spring onions (chopped), one star anise (broken up); 2tsp of szechuan peppercorns; and 2tbs of chinese rice wine (shaohsing). Divide it equally. Place one half of the duck in a heatproof bowl, put the mix on top, place the other duck half on top and top with the rest of the mix. Place the bowl in a steamer, the steamer in a wok, cover, fill the wok with water up to the sides of the steamer and steam for one hour.

As the duck is in a bowl the liquid will accumulate in the base so swap the pieces over during the steaming.

Take the duck out and dry. Discard the mix.

Frying

Place corn oil in the wok and bring up to 190C, test with a piece of bread, it should brown in under a minute. Place the piece of duck in the oil and fry for about two minutes on each side to crisp it, and repeat with the other piece.

Brush the skin with sesame oil and keep warm.

Stock

Place all the duck bones, neck, and wings in a saucepan with a sliced stick of celery, a couple of chopped spring onions, two dried shiitake mushrooms, and enough water to cover. Allow to simmer for 2 hours, skimming the top as necessary. Strain and reduce over heat to taste.

I wasn’t sure where to go from here so I added a couple of star anise and a splash of rice wine and let it simmer a little longer. I used it to stir-fry the greens and as a glaze over the duck.

Greens

A bunch of chinese greens (not sure of the name – white stalks) trimmed up to where the stalk meets the leaf and a bunch of asparagus. Stir-fried with garlic and ginger and finished with a little of the stock.

Serving

Slice up the duck and place it on the greens, garnish with some spring onion greens and pour a little of stock on each person’s plate.

Very nice, perhaps a shade moister would have helped. The smokiness was the dominant flavour but not over so. Duck is very rich so the dish was very filling and we had to have a breather between dessert. A sorbet would have hit the spot, or maybe a nice lychini.

I thought the smoking technique was very interesting and wonder what role the flour had in it all. Mysteries. And following on from last night’s topic, does anyone else find describing how food tastes, a pain the arse?

Update: Oh here we go then – Despite the earthy foundation of meat the flavours have the ethereal carriers of smoke and steam as if the dish were a meeting of profanity and sublimity and the interface of the living and the spirit world so loved in Chinese ghost stories. Similarly time and space weigh in with the past years of childhood of the licorice tastes of the star anise; the distant season of the spring onions; and the locality of the szechuan peppercorns, all speaking from afar with their muted tones. Grounding us back in the now is the crisp crunch of the deep fried skin skin and consoling us with death is the vivid green of the vegetables whose colour is from light itself.

Plus que ca change

Bastani Akbar-Mashti and Baklava

The desert is Bastani Akhbar-Mashiti (a Persian variation on rosewater ice-cream) on Baklava which I made for dinner on Wednesday, apropos was the Smoked Duck in a Szechuan style. Aussie Aussie Aussie, 150 years young.

Elsewhere:

  • Ed’s gone and done us all a great sevice with the Tomatom Definitive list of Australian food bloggers.
  • Masterchef Noodle Cook has left several Olympic games looking shabby by comparison in hosting Paper Chef.
  • Trevor Cook has done food bloggers proud with “Eater’s Digest” – Food and Wine blogging and podcasting
  • give the gift of a goat.
  • Bugger I’ve gone and missed EoMEoTE #13. A very special suggestion for the next one from a reader next time, promise.
  • still doing my Thursday night duffering. Managed to get off to a swell start by taking the the amount of water in the bread as gospel and spending 30 minutes kneading it into something resembling bread. Deboned 12 quails in what seemed like as many hours. But was called in to do the sauce for plating up on the mains for 6 plates. Kinda facked it up a little but it was like getting to drive the tractor. The coconut souffle is rather good too.
  • Plus: You should get over to Pim’s to raise some money for UNICEF and win some great stuff

In other news

ice cream maker

I’m a hip shaker
A heart breaker
I’m a motherfucking killer
with an ice-cream maker.
deep fried peaches stuffed with mascarpone

I hate peaches. Their fuzz reminds of the cheap hard plastic toy animals from sideshow alley or cheap jewelry boxes. They also remind me of boarding school desserts and on that note, their association with buttocks creates psychosexual issues ill-suited to a food blog. I was going to use figs but sadly peaches are in season so use them it was.

The recipe is an original creation by Antonio Carluccio in his book Southern Italian Feast. In his recipe he uses the more humble ricotta and I’ve gone and spoiled the principle by using the luxurious northern equivalent of mascarpone. Much of southern Italian cuisine relies on this kind of humble alternative to northern ingredients. Instead of parmesan cheese, they’ll use breadcrumbs. Instead of tomatoes, they’ll make balls out of papier mache and paint them red with paint scraped from postboxes. Not a small point of opprobrium. Visitors from the North of Italy, dodging cars made from two vespas strapped together will shout out the windows of their Maranello sourced cars mangiatori della cassetta postale, abbiamo rinforzare! before roaring off into the trompe l’oeil that pass for tunnels. I feel somehow complicit in this cultural marginalisation by choosing this recipe just to change it, but the recipe does call for three hard boiled egg yolks to be mixed in, which is unusual I think you’ll agree and worth a try.

Here’s how it’s done with slight variations on the original:

Blend 150gm of caster sugar; 220gm of mascarpone, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, and three hard boiled eggs yolks together to make a smooth paste and chill for an hour or two.

Slice four large white fleshed peaches in half and scoop out the stone and make an extra cavity, mix the scooped out flesh with the mascarpone mix. Fill the peach halves with the mix, levelling them off. Crumb in three steps of flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs. And then deep-fry in olive oil until golden. I’m not sure of the exact temperature but somewhere just below smoking point (which is lower for live oil than other oils) worked well. You can adjust with the heat or if it’s out of control a little more fresh oil.

Also from the book was vino cotto which they recommend as a sauce. Take 500ml of robust red wine, add 200gm of granulated sugar and reduce over heat to a third. Pour in a jar and chill. I used a Virgin Block 2002 Shiraz, which has a virgin on the label, which is quite refreshingly literal when you think about it. They should have a little caption box with “it’s not you, it’s just I’m not that kind of girl”.

For decoration I mixed equal amounts of mascarpone and cream with sugar to taste and added finely chopped vodka-preserved cumquats. They ended up being a bit dissapointing in appearance, just getting coated with cream rather than being interesting specks of orange. It looked a bit like lumpy toothpaste. My cack-handed use of the piping bag didn’t help matters and surely I can do better than a (punctuated) swirly spiral. Can anyone point me in the direction of a book or a site on doing nice patterns with cream and syrup on a plate?

Quite nice indeed, I think smaller peaches would help with daintiness. I did get my teeth set on edge by the peaches which took away some of the enjoyment. Maybe I’ll use figs next time.

dessert = 'appy punters


holidays

hoegaarden

Ah huzzah! Holidays strech forth to the very end of January, kicking off with a frosty glass of Hoegaarden. Actually kicking off with a crisp and tarty bottle of Moss Brothers Semillon and a club sandwich for lunch but the vibe was harshed by an hour of project report knocking out. Nice numbers. Active verbs.

Expect much – dinners, cakes, music.

Enjoy some more of my chilly friend’s below. I think we have a Coopers Pale Ale with an italian sausage hot dog at home and then an Alpha Pale Ale at the Brass Monkey. Over.

hot dog and coopers


alpha pa at the monkey

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crock pot


As we all learnt from Great Expectations; it is not the pot that makes it crock. Nevertheless I have to say I couldn’t care less if this particular one had donkey poo potage in it, it just does it for me on many levels. I hope you like it too.

It doesn’t, in fact, have donkey poo potage in it but a very tasty lamb curry that I helped make amongst others for a lunch on Sunday. It’s a Jamie Oliver recipe but I don’t have it here, I could however point you to this Beef Vindaloo recipe, which turned out quite well.

I’d also tell you about the Mexican food that I made for a party on Friday night but I’m busy. Busy busy. Whistling sound in my head busy. Just quickly though, pop a few roasted beef bone offcuts in your chili con carne and add a bit of mandarin peel and juice (supposed to be orange but I didn’t have any at hand so next best thing, no harm done at all).

Been messing around with the Spice Mag homepage. Movable Type has been an adventure, think Ikea furniture with parts of the instructions saying “no instructions for the handles yet but perhaps you’d like to find out at the Ikea forum, perhaps they can help you”. Anyway you can take a look here so you can say you saw it when it looked all dodgy like, but you’re not saying that now because I’m busy remember so now I’m just accepting “wows” (unless it strangely links off to a Ukranian lingerie site or something so I can fix that). A few more days then it’s in the hammock, eating figs, and drinking moselle from the cask. Busy.

wagin ram


I do do recipes here but in the mean time, the ram! Fresh digs for inter-regional poly-cultural chit-chat. While I’m here I’d just like to note that visits here topped 10,000 a month for the first time and we reached triple figures in the comments (well done those involved).

Have at it as you like, but I’ll have no tall tales of Christmas being sabotaged, distended testicle sacs, or nectarines.